2 Kings 2:1-12
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Peace be with you!
This Transfiguration Sunday, picture yourself on the mountain-top with Jesus and the disciples. In one glorious moment, Jesus begins to glow from the inside out; the glory of all that God is becomes present within Him. He appears between Moses and Elijah, showing Himself to be the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets: the One who fills up in His Person all that they were intended to be and do. Jesus shows Himself to be the Point of it all, the End of the road, the Goal of the journey. Jesus shows Himself to be God Himself. When the vision ceases, distractions are peeled away and the disciples see Jesus alone. In reflection on the glorious splendor of all that Jesus is, the Apostle Paul writes this magnificent verse in our reading today,
“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”(2 Corinthians 4:5, NIV).
It seems that everywhere you look, people are preaching themselves, whether they are Christians or not. Many of us promote ourselves non-step on our social networks. Popular author Eckhart Tolle (promoted by Oprah Winfrey) writes in The New Earth, “The light of consciousness is all that is necessary. You are that light.” Whitney Houston sang, “I’m ev’ry woman; it’s all in me!” Kanye West famously said, “I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade; I will be the loudest voice.”
Christians are no better; often we determine our beliefs based on our feelings instead of turning to God’s Word for guidance. Churches are built around a pastor’s personality. Christians have silly arguments over incidentals like the color of the carpet in the sanctuary and the superiority of favorite worship styles. We demand that the church meet “my needs” without thinking about the needs or perspectives of others. Everywhere we are told to seek our own empowerment and our own inner voice. It seems as if our culture does nothing but preach itself!
But think about reality. Have you found the answers to be within yourself, practically speaking? I would be quite concerned if the best answers in the universe were to be found within me, given how much I mess up! I need a Word from outside of myself! In contrast to Tolle (and the rest of our culture), Paul says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Paul tells us the light is not found in us but in Christ. In us is darkness, so we need Christ to light us up, to cast out the darkness.
In contrast to our culture and our sinful nature’s self focus, Paul says that we are to preach Jesus Christ as Lord. Jesus Christ as Lord means Jesus is the Boss and I’m not. This is just like when we have a Boss on the job. He or she is in charge, lays down the rules, and sets the tone. We submit to the Boss and not the other way around. The good news is that we have a loving Boss who cares for the needs of His employees, not a harsh taskmaster. But we are still called to submit to Him and His directives, found in the Word.
There are groups of Christians these days who want to base their beliefs on their own feelings and their own ideas instead of on the Scriptures. Jude 17-19 says, “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’ These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit” (NIV).
2 Timothy 4:3-4 says, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
As Christians, we are always tempted to drift away from the one and only Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, and from His Word, the Scriptures. We are always tempted to conform to fashionable ideas, to let our hearts be wooed by something new, to think of Jesus as the Same Old Thing (to borrow an expression from The Screwtape Letters). But Jesus calls us to faithfulness. Jesus calls us to continue to be wooed by Him alone. Jesus calls us to a lifetime of walking with Him in which we find that there are no end to the new discoveries and the endless beauty and splendor of who He is. Every day, as our relationship with Jesus unfolds, we see new expressions of His goodness, His promises, His kindness and love for us, His endless knowledge, power and wisdom.
We do not preach ourselves. We ourselves are boring and finite and we come to an end. Jesus Christ is our Lord, endless in all of the discoveries we can make of His salvation, beauty, goodness, power, and wisdom. We therefore worship and adore Him, not ourselves.
If we aren’t preaching ourselves anymore but Jesus Christ who alone saves and redeems us and who alone is worthy of our worship and praise, we no longer need to toot our own horn. We no longer need to claim our rights. We have come to realize that the world does not revolve around us, but around Jesus. We have come to see that the Church does not exist to serve us but to serve Jesus and His mission in the world—to save the lost. If we are no longer the focus, then we are free to be servants, as Paul says. We are free to stop worrying about ourselves, to stop worrying about our eternal fate or even our temporal fate. We are free to simply be vessels in Jesus’ hands to accomplish His purposes.
Does this sound like a difficult prospect? Of course! That’s why the Apostle Paul said, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). In other words, you don’t have to be Super Christian. You’re just a freed sinner that God can work through. You are just a frail human being who Christ saved. You are just a fragile piece of pottery that God has given the privilege of showing forth His message. God’s glory now shines through His people in the Church. We serve not because we work up the energy to do it, but because by His power He works through us. And so we exist to serve each other and to serve a broken world. We exist to do this in Jesus’ name.
So unlike false teaching, unlike the message of the world, unlike simple selfishness that we have in our sinful nature, we do not preach ourselves. Instead we proclaim the splendor and majesty of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. What a relief that it isn’t all about us! What a freedom! And as we proclaim Jesus and not us, we proclaim ourselves as servants to each other and to our world.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for removing the burden of self-focus. We know that you do this daily for those who believe in You, daily drowning our sinful nature and raising us anew in Christ. May we turn to You as the Boss, the fair and loving One who we preach, love, and adore. And may we be freed to serve others in Your name. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. Have you noticed some ways in which you find yourself preaching yourself instead of Jesus? How do the culture and the Church do this as well?
2. What are some ways that it might be freeing to focus on Jesus instead of on you?
3. Can you trust Jesus to be the Boss of your life? What barriers do you find to this trust?
4. How can a focus on Jesus help you to serve others better?